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Policy | Where should Modi 2.0 start with the environment? Everywhere

Environmental health is a long game, but politics isn’t. The problem is that for human beings to effectively act on a future crisis, they need to be able to see themselves in it, and for the most part, limited election terms stymie such long views.

June 18, 2019 / 09:10 AM IST
Representative Image

Representative Image

Padmaparna Ghosh

Attempting to make a list of what the Union government needs to do on the environmental front is like trying to put out a thousand little fires across India… with one hose. To be honest, this is not restricted to India but the world. With report-after-report tightening the world’s deadline for runaway climate change and a soon-to-be-unrecognisable Earth, we know what we are running out of the fastest — time.

The Modi government begins its second term at an unenviable level, environmentally speaking, at the bottom of the pile — that is the Global Environment Performance Index rankings. In 2018, according to Centre for Science and Environment’s State of India’s Environment report, India was at the 177th position out of 180 countries, down from 141 in 2016. From air and water quality to groundwater levels, from the deteriorating condition of our forests to the state of environmental justice, from greenhouse gas emissions to snowballing trash piles — to make a ranked list of where India needs would be Sophie’s Choice.

Most of the Modi government’s past responses to environmental crises are band aids on gaping wounds. Farmer insurance schemes against losses is welcome buffer in an exceedingly harsh profession with low returns, but there also needs to be increased focus on climate-smart agriculture. Modi has made the ambitious promise of doubling farmers’ income by 2020 while climate change is slated to reduce farm incomes by up to 20-25% in the medium term.